Peranakan Exhibition Goes to Seoul

Peranakan Exhibition Goes to Seoul
(Peranakan Museum)

SINGAPORE — An intricately beaded table cloth, an ornate wedding bed and blingtastic gold jewellery are among the precious artefacts heading to Korea next month as part of a travelling exhibition of Peranakan art and culture from Singapore. 

Running from March 19 to May 19 at Seoul’s National Museum of Korea, the show, titled “The Peranakan World: Cross-Cultural Art of Singapore and the Straits”, will feature 230 artefacts on loan from Singapore’s Peranakan Museum and private collectors. These range from costumes and jewellery to ceramics and portraits.

The Peranakans, or the Straits Chinese, are descended from Chinese immigrants who settled in Southeast Asian countries such as Indonesia, Malaysia and Singapore in the 15th and 16th century. They have a distinctive fusion culture influenced by their Chinese origins as well as the traditions and aesthetics of the Malays. 

This can be seen in their language, clothes, artforms and cuisine, a world to which South Korean visitors will be introduced in the exhibition. 

The objects are drawn from the “golden age” of Peranakan culture in the 19th and 20th centuries. Highlights include a beadwork tablecloth which is made up of over one million glass beads and the largest known example of Peranakan beadwork in the world.

There is also a rare lace kebaya — a traditional blouse-skirt combination worn by Peranakan women, or nonyas — featuring auspicious Chinese motifs of dragons and peonies appliquéd on fine netting and a trim of broderie anglaise. 

In addition to the show, there will be special workshops on Peranakan cuisine, beading and fashion held at the Korean museum on March 4and 5 to give visitors a more hands-on experience. 

This effort marks the first time Singapore is presenting Peranakan culture and art to East Asia. In 2010, the Peranakan Museum also presented a special exhibition at the Musée du Quai Branly in Paris.

“The Peranakan World: Cross-Cultural Art of Singapore and the Straits” will run at the National Museum of Korea in Seoul from March 19 to May 19.